The Dutch teenager widely reported to have died by legal suicide after failing to recover from the trauma of childhood rape and molestation actually died at home after her euthanasia request was refused.
Noa Pothoven, 17, who had suffered anorexia and other mental illnesses since abuse attacks in the past six years, had previously sought euthanasia at a clinic without telling her parents – but she had been refused.
“To put an end to incorrect reporting [in foreign media in particular] about her death, we refer to the statement made by friends of Noa this afternoon: Noa Pothoven did not die of euthanasia. To stop her suffering, she has stopped eating and drinking,” the Dutch “end-of-life” clinic she contacted in 2017 said in a statement.
The teenager, from the eastern Dutch city of Arnhem died at the weekend, days after she began to refuse all fluids and foods.
International media organisations reported her death as a case of legal euthanasia performed by a Dutch end-of-life clinic. The story was front-page news in many countries, and Noa’s name trended on social media.
But US website Politico said her parents and doctors actually agreed not to force feed her or compel her into treatment against her will.
“You can’t speak of active euthanisation,” said Paul Bolwerk, a journalist at local newspaper the Gelderlander, told the US website.
Noa was molested at children’s parties at 11 and 12, and then raped by two men when she was 14. In the years since, she had been repeatedly re-admitted to hospital to try to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anorexia that she had developed.
Mr Bolwerk had followed Noa’s struggles with mental illness and talked to her parents about their battles to find an effective treatment for her.
He said Noa’s increasingly desperate family had tried to source all kinds of treatment, including electroconvulsive therapy. This was denied because she was a minor.
“During the last months she had undertaken several attempts to commit suicide,” he said.
“She got depressed more and more, and said, ‘Well, OK, now I press on the button. Now I say I will stop with all treatments”. And that was very stressful for everyone, including the parents, the doctors, the psychiatrists.
“So she stayed at home and decided not to eat and drink, and it was very hard to accept that for everyone.”
Last week, Noa wrote on social media that she had decided to end her life.
“I will get straight to the point: within a maximum of 10 days I will die,” she wrote.
“After years of battling and fighting, I am drained. I have quit eating and drinking for a while now, and after many discussions and evaluations, it was decided to let me go because my suffering is unbearable.”
There is no evidence that Noa’s death involved either euthanasia or assisted suicide, which are both legal – under strict conditions – in the Netherlands.
For help, call:
- Lifeline on 131 114
- beyondblue 1300 224 636
- Blue Knot Foundation (specialising in trauma) 1300 657 380
- Butterfly Foundation (specialising in eating disorders) 1300 334 673